Do you notice anything odd in these sentences?
- A gentleman approached me to ask directions and then held me up at gunpoint.
- I saw two gentlemen approach the boy, and then they beat him to a pulp.
Well, in case you don’t – would you ever define a gentleman as someone who holds up a person at gunpoint or beats someone to a pulp? No, I didn’t think so.
Yet, I can’t believe how often I hear people on the news referring to criminals (and mean, rude, or otherwise unsavory males) as gentlemen. Usually it’s just bystanders providing filler for TV news stories. But this past week, even a psychologist commentator on NPR referred to Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter, this way. (Granted, one might cut some slack to the mentally ill, but still…)
I’m sure people use the word gentleman because they are trying to be politically correct, or polite, and don’t want to offend anyone. But here’s the thing – calling someone a man is not politically incorrect or impolite, so why can’t people just leave it at that?
Please, let’s save gentleman for men who really exhibit the qualities of one.